2010-11-19 / Sports
Rio Mesa, Camarillo face tough tests in opening round of Western Division playoffs
The Camarillo and Rio Mesa high football teams open the CIFSouthern Section Western Division playoffs tonight after earning shares of the Pacific View League title with Oxnard.
“We’re excited to still be playing football this time of year,” Camarillo head coach Dennis Riedmiller said. “A lot of teams have already turned in their gear.”
The Scorpions (7-3 overall) face Channel League champion Dos Pueblos (7-3) for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on the road in Goleta.
Meanwhile, the Spartans (6-4) challenge Arroyo Grande (8-2) at 7 p.m. within the friendly confines of John Reardon Field at Elmont Michaelson Stadium.
These Scorpions are “overachievers,” Riedmiller said.
William Leaupepe, a 5-foot-8, 196-pound defensive tackle, personifies this hardworking, tough group.
The senior isn’t intimidating in person, but on the field he’s a tenacious, stone-cold machine. Leaupepe has 10.5 sacks, 106 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Mason Luna (five sacks, 109 tackles, one blocked field goal), Alek Reeves (105 tackles), Bobby Ferrer (68 tackles), Patrick Ramirez (57 tackles, two sacks) and Richard Martin (two interceptions, 51 tackles) stand out on defense, among multiple contributors.
Camarillo had a shot at clinching an outright PVL crown but lost to rival Rio Mesa in the regular season finale. ACHS had won five straight games before last weekend’s setback.
The Scorpions’ offense must bounce back against a physical, aggressive Dos Pueblos squad that likes to run, Riedmiller said.
“We have to be able to run our offense properly,” the coach said. “Rio Mesa did an excellent job pressuring our quarterback. We did not perform like we have been and that hurt us. We have to drive the ball and put points on the board.”
Camarillo has shuffled its offensive line, adjusting to injuries throughout the season. Left tackle Brandon Baker, left guard Dale Thompson, center Matt Haney, right guard Tyler Sutherland and right tackle Justin Dicke are holding their ground in the trenches.
Senior wide receiver Brent Stevens is out with a broken fibula, Riedmiller said.
Stevens, who finished with a team-high nine touchdown receptions and 853 receiving yards, played on a broken leg for three weeks. He thought he had a highankle sprain, the coach said.
“He’s a tough kid,” Riedmiller said of Stevens. “We’re resilient. We’ll make a couple moves here and there and be okay. But we’ll miss him.”
Quarterback Zandro Diaz has been steady all season, and he’ll feed the ball to running backs Oswaldo Toc and Conrad Kotake.
Jake Maulhardt (81 catches, 1,039 yards and seven scores) leads the receiving corps.
With Stevens gone, Maulhardt and fellow receiver Luther Okeyo (28 catches, 345 yards, five TDs) must step up.
Just two years ago, Rio Mesa went 1-9.
With a throng of playmakers, the Spartans have gone from the doghouse to the penthouse.
“We want to keep the momentum going,” said Marcus Alford, a senior cornerback, running back, slot receiver and kick returner. “We want to keep the intensity up. We’re confident now. We’re getting better every day, and we’re working hard.”
Rio Mesa could have two 1,000-yard running backs by season’s end.
Jordan Nunnery has 1,121 rushing yards with 11 total touchdowns. He averages almost eight yards per carry.
Tanner Wrout has 994 yards on the ground and 12 total scores. He picks up 9.3 yards per tote.
Then there’s Alford, a dynamic athlete with a knack for making big plays. He’s scored 14 touchdowns in a variety of ways, and he’s a threat to wreak havoc every time he touches the ball.
Wrout, who was banged up against Camarillo, will be a gametime decision to play, head coach Bob Gregorchuk said. Wrout is also a force at linebacker with 64 tackles and five sacks.
Senior quarterback Blair Benchwick is happy to direct one of the most exciting offenses in the county. He has solid, if unspectacular, numbers. He only really cares about one stat.
“It would be nice to have more passing yards, but winning’s winning,” Benchwick said, “and I’m happy.”
Rio Mesa, now on a four-game winning streak, will have its hands full against Arroyo Grande.
The Eagles have a big offensive line, and quarterback Brent Vanderveen is dangerous running and throwing. Running back Christian Crichton and linebacker Aaron Ley are players to watch.
Rio Mesa will count on senior safety Michael Thomas, who has a team-high 69 tackles and two interceptions.
Other Spartans playing well include Frank Fassl (seven sacks, 46 tackles), James Turner (58 tackles), Mitchell Haerterich (55 tackles) and Clarence McBride (two sacks, 30 tackles).
Gregorchuk has lived through the ups and downs in seven seasons at the helm. After a 2-4 start this year, every win feels good.
“I’ve learned to savor the victories,” Gregorchuk said.
“The first few weeks of the season, we had some hard times. We made mental errors, physical mistakes, penalties, turnovers. We’ve moved on and shown great maturity.”